This question came from a beautiful mom after the Encouragement for Today devo titled Fresh Start:
I have been good at telling others the importance of forgiveness, unaware it is something I have not been able to do myself.
I gave my life to the Lord two years ago, but still have problems forgiving myself for the way I used to live, and for the not-so-great life my children were having to live because of my ways.
My life is completely changed now, and my home is a happier place. I just cannot get past the way it used to be. I pray to find that forgiveness for myself, and that my children can forgive me.
I totally understand and hear your heart. I hear genuine remorse, and that is a beautiful thing.
But what if instead of carrying guilt over something you cannot change, you choose today to receive what God offers freely – to remove our sins far from us.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
What a beautiful, overwhelming extension of grace!
It allows you to stop carrying something that God has already covered with His atonement.
But let’s get practical.
I hear you saying that the consequences to an earlier life or earlier decisions still weighs heavy.
Let’s look at how it might be possible to handle those in a way that make the difference between letting go (forgiving) and carrying shame and guilt (which just keeps you further stuck, and tied to the past).
It’s unhealthy to say, “I screwed up and if I feel guilty for that for the rest of my life, I’ll pay back those I hurt.”
It’s healthy to say, “I made mistakes that cost my children and myself, and caused pain, and for that I am deeply sorry.”
It’s unhealthy to blame others for your choices, holding anger toward them which only keeps you stuck today.
It’s healthy to say, “These are the things that once caused me to fall far from where God was leading me, or ever wanted for my life or my children, so they aren’t allowed. Not now. Not tomorrow. Even if others don’t think they are wrong, they have the potential to damage my family, so they are non-negotiable.”
It’s unhealthy to model to your children that once you fail, you can never get up.
It’s healthy to be truthful with your children that you were once lost, but now you’ve been found and nothing is more important or more beautiful than that relationship with God – which reveals to your children what grace looks like in their mom.
It’s unhealthy to believe that we are big enough on our own to absolve our own sin.
But it’s healthy to scoop out of God’s generous offer of forgiveness, with scriptures such as: If we tell Him our sins, He is faithful and we can depend on Him to forgive us of our sins. He will make our lives clean from all sin. (1 John 1:9, NLV).
Your remorse is beautiful, but the next step is to walk toward a grace-filled and free life, praying for your children, living a new life in front of them filled with hope and optimism as they see God in you.